Tuesday, October 27, 2020 -
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Yehoshua and Elisheva

Everything was normal.
The groom’s smile could melt a glacier.
The bride’s radiance permeated everyone present.
People danced.
Rabbis blessed.
Guests flew in from many places.
Everyone rejoiced.
And came back for more.
A “normal” wedding.

The wedding was held July 6. Exactly 11 months earlier, on Aug. 6, 2007, Yehoshua Hoffman, 22, was seriously injured when a camp van overturned near Bangor, Maine.

For Yehoshua, and for his family and friends, hell descended.
Frantic trips.
Scary medical diagnoses.
Talk of Yehoshua remaining a quadriplegic.
Days of uncertainty.
Weeks of therapy, leading, seemingly, nowhere.
Unbelievably heartfelt prayers.
Day after day.
More therapy.
Too many inquiries to handle by phone — it took a website.

Simchas Torah in the hospital. If Yehoshua could no longer dance, there was no reason for him to be left out — so said family and friends.

A time to define friendship — people who almost never left his side, people who put aside everything in their lives but the bare essentials to be with Yehoshua.
To encourage him.
To study Torah with him.
To be there for him.

A time to define patience — to see in the very smallest increments of arm movement major mountains climbed.

Then, one fine day, an announcement: Yehoshua is engaged!

By now, against expectations, he had brought some movement back to his arms.

By now, his mind, never injured, came back to Yeshiva Toras Chaim to study, first for a short time, then, incrementally, longer and longer.

Among those who had come to Yehoshua’s aid was Aliza Bulow, who, over time, witnessed a remarkable young man, not cut down, not giving up, not turning bitter, a young man who did not let his body retard his spiritual growth.
A remarkably forward-looking human being.
A young man who could make a wonderful husband.

Aliza and Ephraim Bulow’s daughter, Elisheva, saw it the same way, too.

Long story short: 11 months later, July 6, 2008, a wedding.


No, this wedding was hardly normal. But it was also: no problem.

Example: I never saw a groom break the glass when his foot couldn’t move. No problem. He wheeled his wheel chair over the glass.

I never saw a groom dance in a wheel chair. No problem, since you can dance with your hands as well as with your feet. Yehoshua danced with others, they danced with him. And everybody danced with each other. People did all the crazy stunts in front of Yehoshua, just like usual.

No problem.

I never saw a lot of things. But if you think about it, and not to make light of Yehoshua’s situation, every wedding brings with it something or other that everybody has to work around. The weather, the missed flight, the odd hors d’oeuvre, the disagreement over the ceremony — something. It’s just that in Yehoshua’s and Elisheva’s case, it was out in the open. No problem.

What a magnificent chupah, or ceremony: Hundreds of people spread around, under the heavens, forming a vast circle, yet ever so intimate; such a diversity of attendees, including so many who hadn’t seen each other in years or even decades, but who just couldn’t miss this wedding; prayers on everyone’s lips or in their hearts; utter silence, beginning to end, not for form’s sake, but from utter attention and intention, kavvanah.

Such things come about not only from within a single generation. Of Yehoshua’s and Elisheva’s progenitors, there is a lot I do not know; but I do know that there is such a thing as spiritual genes, or “zechus avos.” I do know that Yehoshua’s paternal grandmother, the late Lillian Hoffman, was an indefatigable fighter for Soviet Jewry. “No” and “can’t” were not in her vocabulary. No doubt, Yehoshua’s and Elisheva’s extraordinary qualities took their seeds from their other progenitors, too.

Where did the hours go?

The wedding was very long, but seemed to fly by.

If only a fraction of the prayers come true, the wedded bliss of Yehoshua and Elisheva will be until 120!

Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor | hillel@ijn.com

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